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New training program for farmers and ranchers

Casey Kinler for Progressive Dairy Published on 15 October 2020

Good news is hard to come by in 2020, which is why the agriculture community shouldn’t overlook the latest Gallup poll. Last month, farming and agriculture earned the highest rating for Americans' views of U.S. business and industry sectors, with the grocery and restaurant industries trailing not far behind. Farming and agriculture was already one of the top-rated industries, but its rise to the number one spot is likely the result of the pandemic’s spotlight on the food sector’s importance. Now, the challenge for the agriculture community is to keep a positive rating with American consumers.

This rating is something to be proud about, but that doesn’t mean our work is finished – especially with animal rights activist groups never taking a break from spreading misinformation about animal agriculture. Most recently, they are making claims that farms and ranches are to blame for COVID-19, despite the lack of evidence supporting that notion. In addition to groups trying to connect the current pandemic to animal agriculture, we’re also seeing activists taking advantage of labor shortages to attempt to get hired “undercover” on farms and in plants and attacking farmers on social media. Some groups are even calling on mayors and governors to order city and state governments to stop purchasing animal products, including milk, cheese and yogurt. Also, at a recent virtual activist conference, speakers claimed meat and milk alternatives are “the only ethical way forward for a civilized society.” These claims and efforts haven’t stopped the agriculture and food sectors from taking the high road, as we’ve seen so many farms, co-ops, companies and others support their communities by donating milk and meals to families in need.

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To ensure American’s views of farming and agriculture stay positive, farmers and ranchers must feel empowered to be outspoken advocates. Animal Ag Allies is a new initiative of the Animal Agriculture Alliance that does just that – gives farmers, ranchers and practicing veterinarians the confidence and resources to be advocates for agriculture online and within their communities. The program provides opportunities for networking, training and continuous development of issue expertise and communication skills. Animal Ag Allies will be on the frontlines of responding to emerging issues and sharing positive content about animal agriculture. The program consists of two phases: online training and a private forum to discuss engagement strategies and emerging issues. Training modules are all available online and may be completed at the participant’s own pace. Modules include:

  • Overviews of each sector of animal agriculture
  • Where to find more resources on each sector
  • Hot topics and emerging issues facing animal ag
  • How to address contentious issues
  • Growing your social following and reaching outside the choir
  • Public outreach

The Alliance is looking for emerging voices in the dialogue around modern animal agriculture to provide development opportunities and connect them with one another, as well as industry experts. So far, nearly 60 agriculture advocates have completed or are currently enrolled in Animal Ag Allies, and it's just getting started. “I truly had fun going through the different modules,” said Jenna Fletcher, a beef and dairy farmer from Nebraska. “It is beneficial as an ‘agvocate’ to have all of the resources saved for future reference.” Dairy farmers and veterinarians interested in participating in the next class of Allies should visit their website and fill out the interest form by Friday, Nov. 6.

The recent pandemic has proven those in the agriculture community are always up for a challenge. While no one could be truly prepared for something like COVID-19, we can prepare ourselves to be the best champions for agriculture. If your organization is interested in supporting dairy farmers through Animal Ag Allies, email the Animal Agriculture Alliance or call them at (703) 562-5160.  end mark

Casey Kinler is the director of membership and marketing for the Animal Agriculture Alliance.

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